If you thought the McCarthy era witch hunts were over, you are sadly mistaken. Welcome back to 1950!
After TV host Glenn Beck’s attack on Van Jones resulted in Jones resigning from the Obama administration, it seems to be open season and now Fox News -- the “fair and balanced” news channel with a political agenda -- kicked its game up a notch this week in its attempts to discredit and destroy more of President Barack Obama’s advisers.
On Jan. 27, President Obama gave his State of the Union Address and reminded the nation of what his administration was fighting for. Among his many promises to strengthen the economy and tighten security measures against terrorism, was an effort to work with Congress and the military over the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a law that currently bars openly gay men and women from serving in the military.
There’s a lot of buzz among political junkies about Outrage, the new documentary by filmmaker Kirby Dick that premiered across the nation last week. The film explores the prevalence of politicians who remain closeted about their sexuality and whether their choice harms the LGBT community.
Republican Rep. John Becker is pretty upset that a
terminally ill gay man has earned the right to die in peace, and now
it’s become a very real possibility that other gay Ohioans might also
get to die (and live) in peace. And, just like my brother, he’s kind of trying to
ruin the game for everyone just because he’s losing.
In July, Judge Timothy Black heard the case of Jim Obergefell and John Arthur, a long-term gay couple who flew to Maryland to marry at the beginning of the month because Arthur is terminally ill, in hospice care, and not expected to live much longer.
Obergefell and Arthur sued the state of Ohio for
discrimination in not recognizing their out-of-state gay marriage, legal
and recognized in Maryland, when other gay couples residing in states
recognizing same-sex marriages and subsequently moved to Ohio would have
their marriages treated as valid. And because Arthur is terminally ill, it's just as much for the emotional connection as it is for any kind of economic benefit.
Here's what Obergefell wrote in his original complaint (grab a tissue):
“Our legacy as a married couple is very important to John and me… in two or more generations our descendants will not know who we are. Married couples, often through research based on death records, have recognition for their special status forever. I want my descendants generations from now who research their history to learn that I loved and married John and that he loved and married me. They will know that they had gay ancestor who was proud and strong and in love.”
In his ruling, Black called the case “not complicated,” explaining that he’d allow the marriage to be legalized on Arthur’s death certificate because it was likely a constitutional violation that the state of Ohio treated lawful out-of-state same-sex marriages differently than lawful out-of-state same-sex marriages.
In September, he ruled to allow the marriage of another gay
couple — David Michener and William Herbert Ives — after Ives
unexpectedly passed away in late August. Although these aren't (yet) blanket rulings, they're being interpreted as monumental victories for supporters of marriage equality.
Becker, then, decided to do the political equivalent of my brother running to my mom and accusing me of cheating; he wrote U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup and called for Black to be impeached for “malfeasance and abuse of power,” which apparently made him really concerned about the “federal government’s ever growing propensity to violate state sovereignty.”
Unfortunately, though, U.S. District Court judges are
appointed for life, so since Becker’s claims against Judge Black are
totally unfounded, Black is free to continue to anger Becker and other people who don't approve of equality for gay couples.
Alphonse Gerhardstein, the attorney for both couples, calls Becker's response to the rulings "bullying."
"Federal judges are granted tenure for life for a reason. It's their job to enforce core principles even when the majority disagrees," he says. "Look at the Dred Scott case. I think most people would agree that's the worst case decision ever made by a judge, and even he didn't get impeached." (In case you forget, he's talking about Dred Scott v. Sandford, the landmark 1857 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that ruled black people weren't citizens.)
Things that actually can get a judge impeached, says Gerhardstein, are offenses like having sex with a criminal defendant or taking bribes.
On Wednesday, Sept. 25, the court added licensed funeral director Robert Grunn, who is responsible for registering deaths and providing personal information to the state on what should go on a death certificate, to the list of plaintiffs. Grunn currently serves same-sex couples when he signs death certificates, says the lawsuit, including those with marriages recognized outside the state of Ohio. The lawsuit, if successful, could require all funeral directors to recognize gay clients as married on death certificates if they were legally married in a different state.
Gerhardstein also says since accepting Arthur and Obergefell's case, he and his colleagues have received inquiries from between 30 to 50 other gay couples seeking legal recognitions of their out-of-state marriages. For now, he says, he and his firm are concentrating on cases specifically involving recognizing same-sex marriages on death certificates, although this litigation could (and probably will) lead to other blanket rulings on how same-sex marriages are recognized in Ohio.
Another hearing with Judge Black is scheduled for Dec. 18.
City Council today unanimously passed a motion that will require parades funded by the city to adhere to the city's anti-discrimination policies, marking the end of an effort that began when the Cincinnati St. Patrick's Day Parade barred an LGBT group from participating.
The motion, which was championed by Councilman Chris Seelbach, requires any future parade that receives funding from the city to respect the city's protected class rules, which prevent discrimination against people of color, women and LGBT individuals.
Council members cautioned that the measure won’t require event hosts to invite fringe groups, but it will make it so LGBT individuals, people of color and women are allowed to participate in future events.
The motion was passed in response to a controversy that began when the St. Patrick's Day Parade prevented the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) from participating. Seelbach, the first openly gay council member, told CityBeat that Chris Schulte and other parade organizers excluded GLSEN because they didn't want the holiday event, which has Catholic roots, to be affiliated with members of the gay and lesbian community.
Schulte later sent out a press release claiming the parade's rules do not allow for the advancement of "any political party, social movement or cause," even though the parade allows politicians and other political groups to march.
In response to the controversy, Seelbach and other council members boycotted the parade. Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan was the only Democratic council member to participate, but she protested the parade's decision by walking alongside a banner in support of marriage equality.
The parade controversy was also picked up by national news outlets, including Buzzfeed and The Huffington Post.
Hold onto your hats, kiddies! Those trying to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” have a new supporter on their side. And it’s not at all who you would expect.
It’s former Vice President Dick Cheney! That’s right, the Dick Cheney. In a shocking twist on the debate of whether or not gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly in the military, Dick Cheney came out on Sunday with an answer more surprising than a gunshot to the face.
He said yes!
His direct quote as seen on ABC’s This Week in regards to whether it was time to let gays and lesbians serve openly in the military is as follows, “Well, I think the society has moved on. I think it’s partly a generational question. I say I’m reluctant to second-guess the military in this regard because they’re the ones who have got to make the judgment about how these policies affect the military capability of our, of our units. And that first requirement that you have to look at all the time is whether they’re still capable of achieving their mission and does the policy change i.e. putting gays in the force, affect their ability to perform their mission. When the chiefs come forward and say we think we can do it, then it strikes me that it’s time to reconsider the policy. And I think Admiral Mullen’s said that.”
Now while this doesn’t exactly mean Cheney will be out there with his daughter in June wearing his Pride shirt through Northside, it is a surprising glimmer of hope from a very unlikely source. Considering his opposition just last year to a federal amendment to allow gay marriage, rather than going with state by state decision, his position on DADT seems a fraction bolder than the Cheney we are used to. But then again, we have heard this sort of vague support of what our military leaders deem the right course of action before.
On October 18, 2006, Senator John McCain appeared on MSNBC and was quoted as saying that if the military’s leadership thought it time to change the current policy, then he would have to “consider seriously changing it.” Not exactly a strong stance on the issue one way or the other, but significantly different to his current position. For despite Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen’s support of the repeal, stating in his testimony to Congress on February 2 of this year that, “allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do,” John McCain stands in firm opposition.
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has been an imperfect, but effective policy,” McCain said to Congress, in response to the efforts to repeal. “And at this moment, when we’re asking more of our military than at any time in recent memory, we should not repeal this law.” Hmm… Funny McCain should bring up memory, since his seems to have a three year expiration.
Whether or not Cheney will offer any real support to the issue of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” that remains to be seen. But for now, he has earned himself a slightly more progressive title than Senator John McCain. That’s kind of like cringing a little less than the guy he’s watching Brokeback Mountain with. But hey, it’s one more “in favor” than we had before.
But boy what a difference a gay son and two years of reflection make.
Portman had to prepare his own coming out speech yesterday, this one to his GOP senatorial brothers and sisters, none of which support same-sex marriage. Imagine how nervous he must have been, sleeves rolled up, flag pin hanging slightly askew as he spoke to reporters in response to the op-ed he published supporting gay marriage. If he stuttered at all it’s not because he wasn’t earnest — he just really loves his son.Two years ago Portman’s son, Will, was a freshman at Yale when he came home and explained that being gay “was not a choice,” which seems to have resonated with Dad. Portman consulted with religious leaders and other men who have been anti-gay even though they have close family members who are homosexual, like former Vice President Dick Cheney, who probably said something like, “Dude, it doesn’t matter anymore now that Obama is talking about queers in the State of the Union and shit. Roll Tide.”
Portman explained his new found interest in respecting millions of fellow humans this way: "[I want] him to have the same opportunities that his brother and sister would have — to have a relationship like Jane and I have had for over 26 years.”
Portman says he would like to see congress overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, a redundant and discriminatory piece of legislation banning federal recognition of gay marriage, which he helped pass in 1996. But he still doesn’t think the federal government should tread on the states and make them recognize it if they don’t want to.
Meanwhile, in Washington Harbor, Md., Republicans at the Conservative Political Action Conference yesterday discussed their bigotry during a panel called "A Rainbow on the Right: Growing the Coalition." The featured speaker was Jimmy LaSalvia, whose Republican gay-rights organization GOProud wasn’t allowed to sponsor the conference.
While gay-rights leaders celebrate the support and the possibility of other powerful Republicans realizing that they know and care about someone who is different, the announcement brings attention to other conservatives trying to remove yuckiness from the party’s official stance on homosexuality and gay marriage.
NBC News today recapped a few other Republicans who have recently come out in support of gay-marriage:
Jon Huntsman, a GOP presidential candidate in 2012 who had endorsed civil unions, said this year that he supports marriage rights. Furthermore, he framed it in conservative terms.
"There is nothing conservative about denying other Americans the ability to forge that same relationship with the person they love," he wrote.
And Theodore Olson, a former solicitor general for President George W. Bush, has been one of the lead attorneys challenging California's Proposition 8, a ballot initiative barring same-sex marriage in that state. (Portman fretted in his op-ed that a court decision might hamper the political movement toward legalizing gay and lesbian weddings.)
And Fred Malek, a Republican power-broker, told NBC News this week that conservatives shouldn't feel threatened by gays and lesbian couples who wish to marry.
"I've always felt that marriage is between a man and a woman, but other people don't agree with that," he said. "People should be able to live their lives the way they choose. And it's not going to threaten our overall value system or our country to allow gays to marry, if that's what they want to do."
Nearly a quarter of Republicans reportedly support same-sex rights, leaving the door open for plenty more GOP leaders to search for gay family members on Facebook who might offer insight inspirational enough to frame their own stories of new found compassion and respect for other people.
Chris Seelbach, a first-time candidate for Cincinnati City Council, has won an endorsement from the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, a national group that could provide a boost in campaign fundraising.
Founded in 1991, the Victory Fund provides strategic, technical and financial support to openly gay and lesbian candidates across the United States, helping them win elections at local, state and federal levels. Most recently, the organization helped elect Mayor Anise Parker of Houston, Texas, the fourth-largest city in the nation.
LGBT rights are becoming “the new normal” in corporate America, but American Financial Group and Western & Southern Financial Group are apparently exceptions. Both Cincinnati-based Fortune 500 companies received a 0 percent for LGBT policies in the 2012 Corporate Equality Index (CEI) from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).
The index uses LGBT-related corporate policies to determine scores: non-discrimination policies including sexual orientation and gender identity, company-provided domestic partner health insurance, equal health coverage for transgender individuals, organizational LGBT cultural competency, engagement in actions that undermine LGBT equality and other categories. The full rankings, dubbed a “Buyer’s Guide,” can be found here.
In the Greater Cincinnati area, Cincinnati-based Omnicare, Covington-based Ashland and Highland Heights-based General Cable fared only slightly better than American Financial and Western & Southern. The three companies received 15 points for at least including sexual orientation in non-discrimination policies.
Other Cincinnati-based Fortune 500 companies did much
better in HRC’s rankings. Procter & Gamble got a 90 percent, Macy’s
got a 90 percent, Kroger got an 85 percent and Fifth Third Bank got an
85 percent. The high scores show some companies are providing more to LGBT individuals than local, state and federal governments through equal access to health care and other benefits that aren't written into law.
On a national level, the five low-scoring Fortune 500 companies in Greater Cincinnati show a surprising level of backwardness. In general, the nationwide rankings were very positive this year. In an emailed statement, HRC pointed out 252 companies got 100-percent scores in 2012, up from 13 companies in 1991. As HRC put it, “For American companies, 100 percent is the new normal.”
CityBeat could not reach Western & Southern or American Financial Group for immediate comment. This story will be updated if comments become available.